Leadership and Human Capacity

I am spending an interesting and provocative week in a seminar led by Margaret (Meg) Wheatley. She is the author of Leadership and the New Science, a book that I refer to again and again in my own work. It looks at what our increasing understanding of the natural world through complexity theory, chaos theory, quantum phyisics and other recent scientific advances can teach us about leadership of human designed organizations. It’s all about systems, networks of connections and interdependencies, and change.

I came expecting for an update: there was a planned fourth edition for the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first edition. It turns out that Meg couldn’t write that book. She’s become less hopeful about the potential for the application of scientific principles to change how we lead.  She’s become less hopeful in general.

So on the one hand I’m disappointed. On the other hand, much of what she has to say is at odds with the work I do at Harvard so it is challenging and provocative. My thinking is stirred and that’s always a good thing. I’m also meeting some great people: fellow travelers interested in unleashing human potential, social justice, and community. I don’t quite know how the week will end and what more can one ask of an educational experience?

Among the takeaways is something said to Meg by her Tibetan teacher: “It’s just our turn to serve the world.” No drama. No histrionics. It’s just our turn. Another powerful thought was shared by singer/songwriter Greg Greenway who visited the class this morning: “We’re all given something. It is up to us what we carry forward and what we leave behind.”

More when I return. In the meantime, watch a little of Meg here.


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